There is much talk in our digital age of silent pianos, and here we mean acoustic instruments with the facility to operate also in a silent mode. The attractions of being able to play without others hearing, and of being able to store one’s performance on a digital platform, can be appreciated by us all.
Generally, the pianos that we deal in are traditionally made. This means that the strings, hammers and soundboard have been manufactured to provide the pianist with a fine variety of acoustic textures. A silent system functions by engaging a hammer shank stopper rail which prevents the hammers from striking the strings. Light sensors, which are located out of sight under the keys, send signals to a control box which recreates synthesised piano sounds that can be heard through headphones, a mobile phone or a PA system.
A silent piano thus has to operate in two quite distinct modes – (1) the normal acoustic piano mode and (2) the silent mode. It needs to be said that the pianist could have two concerns here: the first is simply that in silent mode the instrument is functioning only as a keyboard, and the second concern is about compromise to the piano’s regulation.
We can offer silent systems retrospectively fitted to a piano by our technician. Nowadays we prefer to fit the Adsilent system: this company is near Nuremberg in Germany, although the unit is manufactured in Japan. We would normally take your piano away and the total cost for supply and fit is in the region of £1,500 plus VAT plus transport costs. The regulation has to be adjusted in order to accommodate the silent mode, effectively meaning the “set-off” is further away from the strings. This is not so servere as older systems however.
The Schimmel Twintone system is fitted in the factory during manufacture and as such would normally result in a more reliable performance. For grand pianos, both Schimmel and Yamaha have patented mechanical modifications to the actions. This means that these two silent systems are the only ones that we know of that do not upset the escapement action. We show the two patented systems here:
Yamaha double jack
Schimmel in acoustic mode
Schimmel in silent mode
Yamaha Pianos have modified the jack: they call it the “double jack” and it has two bumps, one of which operates in acoustic mode and the other in silent mode. One could reasonably say, however, that the Schimmel design is more ingenious in its simplicity: the jacks are not altered - instead the rail on which the set-off buttons are mounted is moveable; it simply shifts downwards for silent operation.
In terms of prices, supplying any Schimmel upright with Twintone will add about £2,800; any Schimmel grand with Twintone will add about £7,300.
We would advise customers looking for a silent system to invest in the Schimmel factory fitted Twintone instruments. We can provide any model and these would be supplied as special order. There are a number of issues to consider here and we are always happy to discuss.
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